Sunday, 23 June 2013

Recipe CII - Cherry Pithivier

There are three countries in Europe renowned for their desserts and pâtisseries: the Austrians for their café cakes, the British for their puddings and pies, and the French for their imaginative desserts. This is where the French and the British overlap. If it were British, the Pithivier would be called the Bakewell Pie, as opposed to the tart and pudding versions, as it looks like a fruit pie but is with puff pastry, and it also contains frangipane.

Making cakes is not an exact science, and these measurements are open for your interpretation. My grandmother (bless her) used to just slop handfuls into mixtures until the flavour was just right.

2 rolls of puff pastry, unless you want to waste a morning making your own
A cupful of cherries (I de-pipped mine, but you are welcome to leave them in - but inform hour guests!!)
Half a packet of butter, diced int blocks and allowed to reach room temperature
3 tablespoons of fine sugar
3 times the amount of crushed almonds
1 full egg and 2 egg yolks in different containers
A small amount of cherry schnapps
2 bowls of differing sizes (e.g. 10 and 12 inches / 25 and 30 centimetres in diameter) to cut out the shape of the pastry
1 sheet of oven-proof paper

Switch on the oven to 200°C.
Roll out the first dough sheet, and using the larger of the two bowls, gently cut around the outside. Do the same with the second sheet and smaller bowl.

Place one of the sheets they came in on a large plate (a pizza plate is a good one) and put the larger dough circle on it, followed by the second sheet and the smaller circle. Put them in the fridge while you do the next bit.

Get the butter and sugar, and using your fingers, mix them up until they are well- integrated and the mixture is fluffy and light. Add the cherry schnapps, and slowly add the flour, one egg yolk and the whole egg. Blend in until it goes the colour and texture of a scrambled egg.

Fold in the almonds bit-by-bit, making sure the mixture thickens without becoming too dry.

Put some oven-proof paper onto a baking tray. Take the pastry out of the fridge. Place the smaller of the circles on to the oven-proof paper. Smear the almond mixture over it, leaving about one inch (2.5 cm) free at the edge of the circle. Put the cherries evenly into the mixture. You could stir them in, but this way ensures you get an even spread. Around the outside of the pastry, brush some of the egg yolk on.

Place the larger of the circles on top and press together with your fingers without flattening it. Use the remainder of the egg yolk to brush over the top.

With a knife, pierce the very centre of the pastry and then make swirling, radiating lines with it.

Place it in the oven for 10 minutes at 200°C, then turn it down to 175°C for a further 30 minutes.

Leave it to cool, but while it is still warm, serve it with some thick cream or ice cream and a nice cup of coffee or tea.

This is what the inside of the second one I made looks like. The first one I haven't cut open yet because it's for tomorrow and you can only have some if you're able to get to Luxembourg!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Recipe CI - Pesto from Garden Herbs

We had a party at the weekend, and my herb garden came in pretty useful for marinades. This one is so easy to make and also so very tasty. It goes incredibly well with chicken or pasta.

Any other herbs you wish
1 small onion
4 cloves of garlic
Some hard cheese like Manchego, Cheddar or Pecorino
Some freshly ground black pepper
Some salt
A good amount of olive oil

Put everything in a blender and give them a good spin for at least two minutes.


Sunday, 2 June 2013

Recipe C - Beef in Red Wine

This is the one-hundredth recipe and I want to do something special. So I decided to go back to the first one, and use a log of beef, onions, garlic and herbs. But to celebrate, I threw in a bottle of wine. 

500g-1kg beef
2 onions
4 cloves of garlic
Some carrots
Some celery, but as I don't like celery, I used fennel, but leek would go well too
1 bottle of red wine
10 coarsely ground peppercorns
A bouquet garni (pick a nice assortment of fresh herbs from the garden)

Take all the ingredients, nicely cut, and put them in a bowl. Place the beef on top.

Pour the red wine over the top and put it (covered) in the fridge for between 6 and 14 hours.

Switch on the oven at 160°C.
Remove the beef from the marinade. Fry the outside gently in butter to seal it.
As you see from this photo, the herbs made an impression on the beef...

Remove the other ingredients from the red wine using a sieve, pouring the red wine into another bowl for later. Fry them gently in the butter from the beef.

Put the vegetables and the beef into a casserole dish, then pour over the wine.

Put it in the oven for as long as you like.

It will be very, very tender and very easy to carve, although it will reduce by half, so plan that when you buy your meat.